A slacker parent’s guide to kids’ sports

umpire_2I talk a lot in this blog about running and skiing, but in the interest of complete disclosure, we’re not really a sporty family. Being a “meh” mom isn’t conducive to raising the next Carl Lewis or Shaun White.

Our experience with kid sports is miles wide and inches deep. This is because, while neither kid shows any phenomenal athletic ability, it feels like good parenting when whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve a screen and/or headphones. When someone shows half a mind to sign up for whatever’s in season, we’re supportive.

Track season just started again for our youngest, just as skiing season winds down. Before I tackle the three-page permission-slash-doctor’s-release-slash-fundraising-agreement Colin just handed me, I thought I’d share my parental perspective on various sports.

This isn’t intended to be comprehensive (or even helpful. In fact, if you’re here for bonafide parental advice, you’re lost). It’s my unofficial rating of sports in terms of parental involvement, bench time, expense and equipment, ability to wipe your kid out by dinner, fun, time suck, and other factors.

Gymnastics – For us, this was one of those programs where a little bus came to preschool to pick kids up three times a week. They’d go through toddler-sized obstacle courses with midget balance beams, bars and big blocks covered in colorful padding. Bored looking teens helped toddlers turn cartwheels while parents clapped on the far side of a Plexiglas wall and patted themselves on the back if their kid wasn’t crying. Rating: Three stars. Minimal parental involvement, mid level expense. Time suck may vary depending upon kid enthusiasm.

Soccer – Rec-league soccer has the potential to tax even a small family to the breaking point depending upon how many kids are playing different games at once, at soccer fields on opposite ends of town, and what kind of freak weather pattern develops while you’re huddled on the sidelines. But it’s easy enough to get grandparents to a game once in a while for photo ops, and there’s a lot of running involved and not a lot of rules to memorize. Rating: Three stars for mid level expense, travel and weather hassles, high-ish parental involvement depending upon your ability to avoid eye contact when the call for volunteers is sounded.

football_2016Football – Once the awww factor of seeing your tike dressed up in pads and a helmet wears off, football loses its appeal for any rational person. Of course, if your kid can catch a ball and/or run there are brief moments of exhilaration and dreams of college scholarships. But the potential for bench time is high, which can lead to some bitter complaining in the car on the way home. Rating: You don’t get a rating, football, I didn’t care about you before and I resent you even more when people around here whine about you.

Basketball – If someone around here would remember to let me know about the parent meeting, I could sign him up for basketball, which would be great because practice is after school, there’s no special equipment and you get a shirt. Plus, there appears to be an abundance of kids forgetting parent meetings, so bench time is minimal. Games are short and we can all go out for pizza afterward so mom doesn’t have to yell at anyone to clean the kitchen after dinner. Rating: Four stars for low parental involvement, expense, time suck, and bench time. Another half star for no dinner dishes.

Wrestling – Um no. The only time wresting is mentioned around here is when someone’s quoting Nacho Libre.

“Chanco, when you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants.”

Hockey – Hahaha! Just kidding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASkiing – Let’s just say it: skiing with young kids is awful. Shoving kids into snow pants and ski boots they’ve almost outgrown since last weekend is a workout, and twenty seconds after everyone is dressed, someone’s got to pee. Skiing is all about the long game. Ski hills hire teenagers who learned to ski before they could be counted upon to not fill their Underoos if someone forgot to remind them to visit the bathroom. The pay isn’t phenomenal, but shipping your sixteen year old off every weekend to do something that doesn’t involve a game console is. Rating: Four stars and a coupon good for half off a burger at the lodge.

Swim Team – Swim team should rate higher than it does for the potential to wipe a kid out by dinner. Goggles and swimsuits (at least the trunks that aren’t the cheap polyester that become transparent halfway through the season) can be expensive, but that’s all the equipment needed, and parental involvement is usually low. Then there’s the swim meet: Dante’s missing level of Hell. Meets are endless. Nobody ever remembers what event they’re in and ends up sitting shivering and wet in the bleachers for four hours, mad because all you brought for snacks are cheese sticks. Rating: There’s no rating. I’m going to sit out in the car with my book while you figure out where you left your damn towel.

Golf. For one season.

Golf – Golf’s rating depends upon how long it takes your kid to decide it’s stupid to chase a little ball around with a stick. In our district, there’s additional excitement by virtue of the fact that only kids who scored below a certain level get to play in competition, which could be a good thing if you relish a little drama at the dinner table when someone asks how golf is going. Ummm drama. So yummy. Rating: someone make mom a cocktail pronto, and no one will get hurt.

Baseball – Baseball is where all the aggressive parents go who have latent anger issues and are itching for a fight. And for WHAT? Jeez, people, have you ever even watched the sport? Nine out of ten kids do nothing for most of the game but sit on a bench or stand in a field. Games last for at least a billion years and I will have had to bribe my kid with a truckload of Twinkies and a trip to Chuck-e-Cheese just to get him to put on the damn cup. Rating: I’ll give you one star for every raffle ticket you buy. They’re giving away an iPad this year.

All of which leads us to the happiest sport on the planet:

DSC00494Track – Track has something for everyone, whether your kid wants to throw or jump or spin around, or run in a big circle just like mother-nature intended. There’s no special equipment, no parental involvement or fundraising if it’s an after school program. The season’s short, so are the meets, there may or may not be an end of the season party, but it’s during school, so I don’t have to care. Rating five stars way up high with a snap and a little pirouette.

There you go. With apologies to any wrestling or hockey fans.

Any experience with kids sports I missed? Lacrosse? Fencing, rodeo or competitive macrame? Add your own rating below. 


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Thank you.




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  1. I am NOT a hockey fan. I am, sadly, a hockey mom. Living hell. Negative 5 stars. Season started in September and is still going on. High expense. Multiple games per week at odd hours far, far away. For all that is holy, do NOT become a hockey mom if you don\’t have to.

    Fortunately, the season will finally wrap up in two weeks and then track starts. My son\’s first year, but my daughter did track all through high school. I have to agree with your five star assessment there.

    1. That is exactly what I have heard about hockey, and why I actively discourage it around here. We have two rinks in the area and they are booked solid. I\’ve heard of teams getting ice time at 5 in the morning or 11 at night. I gotta whole bunch of \”nope\” for hockey.

  2. Love this post and my kids are just like yours; not particularly sports fanatics, but I always feel better if they\’re active doing something! We\’ve done track, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, skiing, golf and track! Track is definitely a favorite around here. I\’m soooooo not into wresting either. I\’m glad none of my boys have wanted to do football because it\’s so time consuming and $$$$! I loved seeing all of your cute pictures!

    1. Thanks, Mel! Yes, some of the stuff available to kids is made worse by the outrageous expense involved. We have a couple bins full of outgrown athletic equipment to prove it!

  3. I was secretly relieved when both my kids weren\’t into baseball or soccer which started so early in the morning. Of course, now I feel guilty that maybe my \”meh\” attitude contributed to their attitude. They\’re both musicians now which I can relate to better except for the fact their concerts start sometimes late at night. Can\’t win!

    1. Nope there\’s no winning to be done. And both my kids are musicians, too, so all this and we get to browbeat them into practicing every night.